ROOM 203 ** USA 2022 Dir: Ben Jagger. 104 mins
Seems the dead always want revenge. How about a story of the deceased enjoying themselves in their world? The expired could be better off than they were in their previous existence. Here we have the ‘haunted room’ story of Room 203 (2022) as penned by three people including Director Ben Jagger, John Poliquin and Nick Richey. My question is how it could take three people to write a big cliche which is what this work is. Room 203 (2022) is not without its good points that come in the form of the actors. Those actors that work well on screen yet are saddled with wretched cliché dialogue and situations from various genre films.
First, you get the Room watched over by Ronan (Scott Gremillion) the shady landlord, the hole in the wall that cannot be fixed in a room with a history of past murder. Mix in roommates of the good girl Kim White (Francesca Xuereb) and the rebel bad gal Izzy Davis (Viktoria Vinyarska) who drinks, is bisexual and has a troubled past. The concerned slightly bookish boy Ian who befriends Kim at College played by Eric Wiegand all come together in a 45 minutes too long slugfest of Celtic Mysticism. To top it off in the end sequence of fight or flight you have Kim dressed in the infamous ‘final girl’ uniform of the tank top and blood.
Room 203 (2022) suffered from trying to make something out of nothing as the writers and the Director seem to revel in moving around the sets which are well done in a historic apartment. The story gets clotted with voiceovers and subplots of idealistic journalist Kim using Izzy’s tragedy as a creative writing project. The film tries to develop characters that are frankly and done with or should have been in the first half hour, yet they get dragged on. The picture smacks of a student film premise that was expanded upon yet if you are going to do that, there must be substance. This picture is marketed to the casual genre fan which again is nothing wrong with that since it falls into line with most of the Blumhouse catalogue.
The Director and the writers are not comfortable with showing intimacy on the screen. The relationship between Kim and Izzy who is the wayward girl not liked by Kim’s Parents borders on the touchy-feely with the barest hint of something else which does not necessarily mean sexual. Sexuality in Izzy which she shows later in picking up a woman in a bar is treated poorly not that we must have graphic depiction. When in tender fun moments Kim and her would-be Boyfriend Ian do have urges while working on a research project, the moment becomes a giggle fest in a flash. Kim lifts her shirt off the next morning she wakes up with the shirt on. This is not to say we must have graphic love scenes, but we should have them handled in a respectful less juvenile way for the filmgoing audience. This does not mean gratuitous nudity like in many of the 1980s slasher and exploitation films. Have we not gone past the fear of intimacy and its depiction as a story point this is 2022.
The huge positive are the actors, particularly girl Kim White (Francesca Xuereb), Izzy Davis (Viktoria Vinyarska) and Ian (Eric Wiegand). Everyone of them tries, looks committed and delivers their lines the best they can. The ‘Young Adult’ tone of the story gets in the way, perhaps this was done for marketing purposes. Today’s horror film while doesn’t have to have blood and danger in every sequence like The Sadness (2021) which is a different type of film.
Room 203 (2022) needs to raise the stakes of its story to support the characters that seem to bog down the events. This does not mean reinventing the genre in approach it is to give the actors and the production a spine to work with which does not exist. If you are new to the genre or a casual watcher, the film is a good introduction to horror, unfortunately, it is marketed as a misleading poster image which it isn’t. Still enjoyable again for the actors and the wonderful old apartment sets. The crux is that nothing of consequence makes you care about anything.
Review by Terry Sherwood